A few weeks ago I decided to do something that was a not particularly great idea, and that was take my two youngest children - Gabe who is 8, and Aidy who is 4 - to the grocery store around 5 pm, the approximate hour that their inner demons spill out onto full display; when they are willing to slash eachother’s throats for no reason and deliver me, their innocent mother, to the gates of hell without a single regret because they are so hungry and I, evildoer that I am, have no immediate snack to proffer. So hungry that no one has ever conceived of such hunger and never will because, in fact, the intensity of the feeling has not historically been felt before by the human species. This, despite starving people in compromised nations. This, despite the regular size blueberry muffins they consumed just 40 minutes prior. Regular size, not even the mini ones, because I knew of their dire situation, having not eaten since one-and-a-half hours before during afternoon snack.
(Yeah, I know. French children and raising mannerly kids and etc. But they hold it together during school so if they’re going to take it out on someone I am grateful it’s me. Also, this is not one of those blog posts where I explain how I know I don’t have it that bad or could do better, because I am not particularly feeling that at this juncture).
I took them to the store - briefly, to buy just a few items - where there was plentiful post-season Easter candy on display and elderly people who didn’t think getting run over by a wayward preschooler with a sparkly headband was at all cute. They spent the 30 seconds I was looking at the coffee selection trying to stomp on eachother’s feet as hard as possible, and touched like 400 of the 500 KinderJoy eggs sitting right there at the checkout - placed strategically to ruin parents’ lives - as though their proximity to and aggressive handling of them would persuade a purchase. Which it did not.
Gabe and Aidy…they don’t really like eachother. I don’t say this with sadness, because I firmly believe that time will make them closer, and I can already see the glimmer of a slow-but-sure not-exactly-friends-but-not-as-serious-enemies situation forming between them now that Aidy is getting a little bigger. She’s a much more physical child than Nora, Gabe’s OG playmate, and admiringly follows her big brother around as he teaches her things like how to get the most lift jumping off a living room armchair. I allow it because it’s preferable to simmering resentment.
But they are also such different personalities. Gabe is an introvert and problem-solver, a lover of puzzles and word games. Aidy is an extreme extrovert who can’t pass a stranger without telling a story and sometimes deliver unexpected hand holding and other symbols of her affection (which we are having some conversations about because, “not everybody wants a thigh massage, Aidy.”)
I told J recently that Aidy reminds me of how I feel when I’m sitting at a bar and have had a martini and there are all these people to talk to and if I can’t talk to them I might die. I don’t know what it is, this urgent need to connect, to learn all the life stories, whether or not the subjects in question are in the mood to hand them over. This is how Aidy is all the time, though. 24/7.
I think shortly after she was born (that event in itself a questionable family decision in my middle child’s opinion) and it became clear that her personality was, you know, rather in-your-face, Gabe was like, “Oh hell no. This is not what I signed up for. I signed up for peace and quiet and following the spoken and unspoken rules and definitely not a wild and tiny human who climbs into my bed with me when I’m trying to fall asleep and sings ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ and then tells me about her day in toddler-speak, for the love of god” (which is, by the way, what he got when Nora moved into her own room at our old place and Gabe and Aidy, by necessity, became roommates, although they each have their own bedrooms now, thankfully).
Anyway, the point is that they fight more vehemently and persistently than Gabe and Nora ever did (more creatively, too. The other day Aidy told Gabe that he was a “stinky diaper” and she was going to “wear him”). By the end of that grocery trip they were at eachother’s throats, literally, and I was pretty much done being a parent, not literally but almost. When we got home, there was complaining about dinner and general insanity surrounding bedtime, and J was just as overwhelmed as I was.
None of this is abnormal, but on that day it felt too normal, if that makes sense. Like I needed a true break if I was going to remain in this house and look after these people for the foreseeable future. So I took a glass of wine and went into my bedroom closet. This was, I realize, a banal act representative of stereotypical motherhood. The type of stuff glorified on parenting blogs and in memes. It was not original or clever that I retreated to a space that had a door with a glass of alcohol. But I’d never really done it before and I wanna tell you guys something: everybody knew I was in there, and for some reason the seriousness of the measure - the novelty of it - communicated that I meant business. They left me alone. I mean, maybe J told them to leave me alone, taking the hint when I shouted “I’m going into the closet with my wine, leave me alone!” (thank you, J) but whatever the case, they did it.
I sat in there in that space (a space that is not that big by the way, but has a nice, round window) with my clothes and handbags and this total sense of myself, surrounded by things that belong to me alone, and thought about the various annoyances this life has to offer, and I eventually started to feel better. Capable again.
Best yet, I became aware that should I not feel capable in the future, I could come back. This bar was always open, and very convienient, although, unfortunately, there were no people to talk to when I got the urge. That’s why, once I was sitting there for a bit, I went to get my computer and started writing this post, which I’m just finishing now. I have my closet, and I have wine, and I have all of you. Next time, let’s do it in person.